Oak Creek Town trustees have approved final budget figures that include an electric rate increase and a slight raise in property taxes to move closer to a balanced budget.
Town officials also mulled over bringing town employees up into a higher pay scale for next year.
Electric fees will increase by one cent per kilowatt hour, from 7.5 cents to 8.5 cents, costing about $10 per 1,000 kilowatts.
"We have to remember that our electric rates are the highest in the area," Trustee Mike Kien warned.
He compared them to Yampa Valley Electric, which charges 6 cents per kilowatt hour.
"With what they have as a customer base, they can afford to do that," Oak Creek Public Works Director Chuck Wisecup responded.
All the trustees and Mayor Deb Van Gundy said they didn't want to have to raise the fees. However, Van Gundy said there is a need to balance the town budget.
The property mill levy also will go up to 10.457 from 10.122.
By law, trustees can't increase mill levies past a certain amount without a vote from the tax payers. However, acting town treasurer Nancy Stahoviak said the mill levy was mistakenly set too low, at 10.122. Instead, it should have been set at 10.457. The increase won't be a significant increase in taxes or revenue to the town.
"Every little bit helps," Van Gundy said. "I see it as paying for a hockey rink employee."
To lesson the impact of the electric fee and tax increase, the trustees decided not to add a $1 per month water increase nor a $2.25 surcharge for trash pick up.
"If we are going to do the electric, we shouldn't raise the water rates," Trustee Sonja Norris said.
Kien said raising the water rate would be unfair. Each of the four years he has been on the board the water rate has increased, from $21.50 to to $25.25.
"We can't go on raising it a dollar a year," he said.
Trustee Carol Montoya agreed.
"I don't want another dollar on my bill," she said.
For the trash, Kien was in favor of the surcharge because the town's trash fund doesn't pay for itself, unlike the water and electricity fund.
"It just makes sense for the trash fund to pay for itself," he said.
Without the charge it will cost the town $15,320 to manage trash collection in Oak Creek to cover billing expenses and other administrative duties. With the charge, it would cost the town $6,130.
Despite Kien's position, the board agreed to skip the trash collection increase.
"I just think that it would be too much," Norris said of the surcharge.
Deciding not to charge for trash administration means the 2001 budget likely will be in the red. With the water charges, which would have brought in $29,700 more in revenue a year, and the trash surcharges added in, the town was about $1,200 in the black.
On the subject of town employees and pay scales,Van Gundy has been working on implementing the pay scale for some time and the board initially agreed to apply it to the 2001 budget.
It includes an average of a 10 percent raise on entry levels and a 12 percent increase at the top. Also, Van Gundy said she wanted the pay scale to reflect the added responsibilities the police officers now have and the training it takes to qualify for the position.
The old pay scale had entry-level police officers being paid $10 an hour, which was the same as many other entry-level positions in the town.
The new scale starts officers out at $14.10 an hour or $29,329 a year.
The money to pay for police raises comes from what the town has set aside to pay for a fourth officer. No one was hired for that position.
Kien, who missed the work session when the board decided to use the new pay scale, was not happy with the pay scale increases.
He said he felt the raises should be voted on in a regular meeting.
"You're raising the salaries and you're not voting on it," he said.
Van Gundy said the budget needed to be finished and the board agreed to use the new pay scale.
Also, Kien was concerned the entry-level employees will have to get 10 to 12 percent raises to align them with the pay scale, while employees who have been with the town for a while would get the standard 2 to 2.5 percent raises.
Van Gundy said the pay raises are needed to keep the newer employees around.
"If they can't afford to work and live here, they just get trained and go," Van Gundy said.
As acting treasurer, Stahoviak said she wasn't sure on the final numbers of the budget until all the pay-scale changes are made.